Bookroo Interview With Kass Reich

Bookroo boxes are now arriving at a doorstep near you–hooray! We love finding wonderful additions for your child’s personal library each month, and we hope you’ve already enjoyed some quality time together enjoying this month’s books. One of the books we were excited to send you this month is This Little Hamster. This Little Hamster is written and illustrated by Kass Reich, and today we’re thrilled to share an interview we did with Kass.

Children's Book illustrator Kass Reich

Originally from Montreal, Canada, Kass has lived and worked in Beijing, Hong Kong, London, and Melbourne, Australia. It was while working in early childhood education in Beijing that she felt inspired to create stories for children. She has now illustrated six different children’s books, four of which she also authored. She earned an art degree from Concordia University and now lives and works in Toronto as an artist and educator.

Bookroo: This Little Hamster is such a fun board book. Did you have a specific audience in mind as you created the story?

Kass: I taught preschool for a few years a while back. This Little Hamster was inspired by my class. I wrote and illustrated the book based entirely on what I thought they would find funny.

Bookroo: Did you have a chance to share the story with your students? What was their reaction?

Kass: I did! They seemed to really like it, there were a lot of laughs. The preschool students I was teaching at the time were learning English as a second language, so it helped when silly actions were acted out while reading the story.

Children's Book author and illustrator Kass Reich

Bookroo: Your cute hamsters have now been featured in four books. Did you know when you started you’d create more than one story with these characters?

Kass: I had absolutely no idea anything would come of my little hamster characters. Before I moved abroad I was really into oil painting but shifted gears towards illustration as the supplies were easier to pack and they didn’t require a properly ventilated studio space to work with. Since I was teaching little guys it seemed like a natural next step to write and illustrate for them. I never considered trying to get published until my mom submitted my book to Orca Book Publishers without telling me. It was a serious shock when got an email from them saying they wanted to publish my book! After that, one book turned into a series of four. I’m not sure if I would have pursued a career as an illustrator if it weren’t for that surprise email. Thanks mom.

Bookroo: As both a writer and an illustrator, what are the differences and similarities between the writing process and the illustrating process?

Kass: That’s sort of a tricky one to answer because I’m not even sure I would consider myself a writer. I always start with the imagery I would like to illustrate then the words follow. The art carries a lot more weight in the process for me. This is probably because my background is in visual arts. These days I’ve been working on picture books vs. board books. For these types of projects I’ve been paired with authors. I do have a few ideas brewing for stories of my own and maybe one day I’ll sit down to write them. But for now I’m pretty happy creating art for other people’s narratives.

Bookroo: Can you tell us more about your work as an educator?

Kass: I studied Art education at Concordia University and loved it. I managed to get a job teaching art in the community every time I moved to a new city. One of the most memorable jobs was teaching life drawing in London England. I really love the balance of the two, I tried working as an illustrator full time but ended up really missing being a teacher. I just recently got a job at the Art Gallery of Ontario teaching art classes and workshops. I am seriously loving it so far.

Bookroo: In addition to delightful children’s books, you also create charming illustrations and graphite work. Are those for personal pleasure or for other projects?

Kass: They’re for both actually. I started posting things from my sketchbook and personal projects on Instagram and started getting a lot of enquiries about prints. I ended up getting myself a serious printer capable of producing gallery quality prints and now I run a little online shop. I love having my own illustration work outside of what I do for picture books. It keeps thing exciting.

Children's book illustrator Kass Reich studio

Bookroo: What hobbies and interests do you have?

Kass: Outside of art I love everything about dogs, traveling and food (both eating and making it)

Bookroo: We’re a community of book lovers– do you have any announcements about upcoming work you can share with us?

Kass: Yes! I have recently finished illustrating a book with Kids Can Press called Dr. Coo and the Pigeon Protest written by Sarah Hampson. It will hit bookshelves next spring. It was so much fun to work on. I also have a bunch of upcoming projects with Tundra books that I’m also super excited about.

We really appreciate the opportunity to learn more about Kass and her work as an author, illustrator and educator. You can see more of her work on her website. And please let us know what you enjoyed from the interview in the comments below!

(All images in this interview courtesy of Kass Reich.)

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